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Adrian Borland - Alexandria review (Whisperin' And Hollerin' )

date: Sep 2, 2000


 

ADRIAN BORLAND & THE CITIZENS - ALEXANDRIA 
(1989 - PLAY IT AGAIN SAM) 

As leader of THE SOUND, one of the finest and most overlooked of all 1980s outfits, ADRIAN BORLAND was responsible for some of that decade’s most passionate, yet uncelebrated vinyl outings. In a disjointed career trajectory spanning eight years or so, THE SOUND left behind excellent LPS like “Jeopardy” (1980), “Thunder Up” (1987) and the epic, 6-track “Shock Of Daylight”, still one of the most potent sub 30 minute offerings in rock. Sadly, few bar the converted noticed when THE SOUND petered out around the end of 1987 and few publications ran more than brief obituaries when Adrian shockingly surrendered his life by jumping under a train on April 26th, 1999. During his lifetime, THE SOUND rarely troubled the music press “Best Of” LP scorers and his later solo wilderness years seem to rate mainly indifference: a ludicrous state of affairs when you consider he was influential enough to produce albums by artists as diverse as FELT and INTO PARADISE and left behind a string of killer solo albums such as “Alexandria.” 

Bearing in mind that THE SOUND ’s raw-boned intensity often found them standing on a similar anthem-laden landscape as the likes of U2 and THE WATERBOYS, it’s dumbfounding to note that they failed to crack the crossover market, but whilst Adrian’s first post-SOUND outing, “Alexandria” sups from the SOUND’s familiar fountain of passion, in many ways it acknowledges Borland’s previous commercial shortcomings and buffs up a more polished sheen that falls satisfyingly short of slick. Grace and danger evenly proportioned, you might say. Created predominantly for recording purposes, THE CITIZENS were a (not so) loose aggregation of heavy session friends, including WATERBOY Anto Thistlethwaite (sax/ harmonica), former PENTANGLE/ NICK DRAKE man Danny Thompson (string bass) and ex-SOUND colleague Colvin Mayers, but one of “Alexandria”s myriad qualities is that it sounds intuitive as well as professional; the musicians never crowding Borland’s rich – and improved – voice. Typically, “Alexandria” includes a couple of great ignored singles. “Light The Sky” is a lovely, semi-acoustic gem that tells you all you need about trust and faith, incandescent chorus and all, still getting out under three minutes, whilst “Beneath The Big Wheel” – with its’ manically brushed drums and Thomson’s slip slidin’ away acoustic bass – is initially reflective in its’ stop the world musing, before finally the Duke Quartet’s strings slide in and Borland’s soulful lad guitar slips the leash. 

Despite its’ windswept charms, “Alexandria” doesn’t wholly forget to rock either. “Community Call” is classic, nostril-flaring Borland, guitars buzzing around great, “Baker Street”-style sax breaks and a restless vocal with Adrian declaring: “Who wants to be alone now? We’ve got too much loneliness anyhow.” “Rogue Beauty” is equally impressive; the chorus riding high on scintillating strings, though the line: “there’s something to be said for pulling through” seems unbearably sad when related to Adrian’s own story. Lyrically, “Alexandria”s songs deal with redemption and that elusive quest for happiness. Naturally with Borland, the ballads are never less than moving. “No Ethereal” has a slow-burning ache of a melody that refuses to be quelled, while songs like “Shadow Of Your Grace” - and especially the rugged acoustics of the closing “Deep Deep Blue” – scream out for the Top 5 placings they would no doubt have attained if in, say, Bono’s hands. Emotionally turbulent and rarely less than hauntingly beautiful, “Alexandria” is a deceptively lush insight into a troubled soul who would spend the last decade of his life frustrated by minor cultdom, despite continually proving his worth with jewels like “Brittle Heaven” (1992) and 1997’s “5:00 A.M.” Indeed, that ADRIAN BORLAND’S repertoire is still a closed book to most is a real shock and enough to make us all hang our heads in shame. 

1998 - TIM PEACOCK - Whisperin' & Hollerin'

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